Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

Friends, I read a lot. Just look at my WeReads page on Facebook, or just ask, and I'll tell you--I read a lot. Not as much as some, but definitely more than others. I've started reading 2 books at once just to keep my list moving.

I started keeping a list of the books I read every year. While I still have to go back and add up this year's total, I would guess that it's probably at 40-50 books. Overall, I was a little disappointed with the majority of what I read this year. I like to read for escapism, and with my tight schedule, it's a letdown when I make the time to get through something and wind up disliking it.

With that in mind, I read some really great stuff this year, too. As I was going through my list, it dawned on me that most of these titles are memoirs or biographies. I don't have any particular reason for it, really--I suppose I just read more nonfiction than usual, and much of it was good!

Here's a short list of my literary highlights from 2009:

Cornflakes with John Lennon: and Other Tales from a Rock and Roll Life by Robert Hilburn. I just finished this last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wouldn't mind this guy's job--reviewing rock shows, discovering the "next big thing", and (best of all) interviewing some of the biggest music legends of our time. Hilburn's interviewed folks like Johnny Cash, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Jack White from The White Stripes, Elvis Presley, and (I'm so jealous!) Bruce Springsteen and U2! Where can I get that job? Just let me meet Bruce or Bono (or both) and I'd quit the next day, no questions asked--I'm afraid I'd be too starstruck to do the piece justice, but would love the opportunity to meet either one of them! But I digress...

Between Me and the River, Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir by Carrie Host. This powerful memoir of the strong ties between family and how it can truly conquer any odds--even a rare and often untreatable kind of cancer. I started this book with no particular expectations, but was struck by the quality of the writing and the depth of Carrie's message. Read this book and learn of the trials she overcame to merely live, and your life won't seem so bad!

My (So-Called) Freelance Life and The Anti-9-5 Guide by Michelle Goodman. Love, love, loved both of these books. Besides all of the great info they contain, Goodman's friendly, big sister-y writing style was a treat to read. She sets it straight and doesn't sugarcoat the less-than-glamorous side of self-employment, but the frank explanations were refreshingly welcome. My So-Called Freelance Life is a helpful guide for anyone thinking of ditching the daily grind and going it solo, while The Anti-9-6 Guide celebrates (and offers advice for) the self-employed, particularly those in "alternative" careers, like full-time dog walkers.

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult. I love anything she writes, so her titles are usually on my "best of" lists by default. Always tackling difficult subjects, this time Picoult focuses on a family struggling to raise a young daughter with a rare bone disease. Her bones are so brittle, they break at the slightest bump, fall, or sneeze. She has a knack for pulling readers right into the story--this one is no exception.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman. A much different storyline from Jodi Picoult's, but no less compelling. Undress Me is Gilman's memoir from her time in Communist China with her best friend following their graduation from college. Besides the usual cultural barriers, Gilman and her friend have the added strain of mental illness. An interesting, compelling read.

On the list for 2010--

No More Mondays by Dan Miller.

Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down Market Dilettante by Ayun Halliday.

The Other Queen by Phillippa Gregory.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder by Rebecca Wells.


  1. The rock-n-roll book sounds really fun, how had I missed hearing of that one? I read more than almost everyone I know (which I think is a sad mark of our times), but most of my reading is usually re-reads of old favorites ... if only because the book buying budget can't keep up with my reading habits. (My counts--since I've been keeping a reading list since 1998--are usually in the 200-books in a year range.) Okay ... off to look at the freelancing book...

  2. Deb,
    Robert Hilburn's book just came out. I'm a reviewer for a book site, so I get some advanced proofs, which is REALLY nice. I loved both of Michelle Goodman's books, so I would definitely recommend either. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I loved Michelle Goodman's books, too. And I know you'll love No More Mondays, as it was a major influence on my decision to freelance full time. Two of my favorite reads from the past year were Kabul Beauty School and The Time Paradox. I wish I'd done a better job of keeping trac of my reading!

  4. Susan,
    Thanks for commenting! I actually heard about No More Mondays on your blog, so I imagine I'll get a lot out of it. I started the reading list just to see how many books I actually read in a year, and just kept up the list ever since. It's really something to see all of the titles in black and white--but it makes it easier to recommend good reads to others! Happy New Year!